It seems self-evident that drunk-driving checkpoints (sometimes called roadblocks or saturation enforcement) should be illegal. If police need probable cause to pull a driver over for DUI, then why is it O.K. to stop a driver when there's no probable cause?
On the other side of the argument, supporters of drunk-driving checkpoints say they serve public-safety purposes: roadblocks deter drunk driving and raise the public's awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.
Many people have challenged the constitutionality of checkpoints, yet courts in most states - including Illinois - have found that drunk-driving checkpoints are legal. The courts' reasoning generally has been that public-safety interests outweigh the minor inconvenience that checkpoints present to motorists.
Courts have said that checkpoints must meet certain minimum standards, in order to be constitutional:
- Authorities must publicize checkpoints in advance
- The location of the checkpoints must be reasonable
- The duration of the checkpoints must be reasonable
Plus, officers must rely on a neutral formula for stopping motorists.
What happens at a drunk-driving checkpoint?
What do checkpoints look like, and what happens at a checkpoint? The National Highway Transportation Safety Association advises law-enforcement agencies on drunk-driving checkpoints. The NHTSA recommends that police use proper signage, marked cars and uniformed officers.
If a motorist is stopped at a checkpoint, an officer typically will conduct a brief conversation with the driver. The officer might ask to see a driver's license or proof of insurance. If the police detect any signs of intoxication, he or she might conduct a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer.
Where do checkpoints occur?
When selecting a location for a checkpoint, the NHTSA says:
- The location should have a "high incidence" of impaired driving crashes
- The checkpoint must be conducted with the least amount of intrusion and inconvenience for motorists
- The location should have room on the shoulder for detaining drivers and conducting field sobriety tests
Drunk-driving checkpoints in our region
Here are the locations of drunk-driving checkpoints conducted in southern Illinois in the past 12 months, according to duiblock.com.
- Carbondale, June 10, 2017
- East St. Louis, June 2, 2017
- Venice, May 5, 2017
- East St. Louis, April 1, 2017
- Bridgeport, March 25, 2017
- Carterville, March 18, 2017
- Springfield (at seven locations), December 31, 2016
- Wood River, December 30, 2016
- Marion, December 3, 2016
- Edwardsville, November 26, 2016
If you study Illinois the location information, the vast majority of drunk-driving roadblocks are located in the Chicago area. Nearly all checkpoints are conducted on Friday or Saturday nights.